My friend Mike complimented me a couple of years ago saying I was able to follow two or three conversations happening around me at the same time. I credit it to being a trainer and having to pay attention to a room full of people working at different speeds. And I’m sure that’s part of it. Sometimes when I’m with mom I wonder if it’s partly
the way I’m wired biologically.
Even though my mom doesn’t initiate or really have many conversations anymore, it doesn’t mean she’s not constantly listening to everything that’s going on around her. She’ll turn her head when she hears something down the hall. She’ll repeat a word or phrase that’s said on TV. She’ll even pick up and repeat the pages over the loudspeaker.
Though we don’t have conversations, mom is still listening when we talk. She’s still paying attention. A nursing home is a busy and loud place, with lots of simultaneous conversations, equipment beeping, TVs playing, and visitors in and out. She’s takes it all in.
Yesterday when Joey was telling me a story that involves a getting a “boob job,” mom picked right up on it and wouldn’t stop repeating the phase…
My coworker asked me this morning if I had any new pictures of baby Eliza. While I thumbed through photos on the iPad my coworker asked, “Do you have any baby pictures of your mother? I mean, I see you in Eliza, but does she look like your mother or father too?”
I’d never thought of that question.
When Eliza was weeks old Katie and I held up her photo beside my baby photo from around that age. The resemblance was uncanny…and a little flattering to me, not so much to Katie.
Looking at my Mom’s childhood picture I can see her in Eliza. They have the same eyes, and nose. They share similar smiles. Looking at Eliza, you can see that the “Power of Helen is strong with this one.”
It is moments and discoveries like this I know my Mom would love to consciously be part of. She would have a fun laugh comparing pictures like this. The sad reality is in the near future these two women will not remember each other. Eliza Helen met Helen Katherine too early, and Helen Katherine met Eliza Helen too late. As Eliza gets older my mother will be a memory, a spirit haunting picture frames, existing as lore told in stories by Matt, Katie and me. However, it is comforting to know they will share more than their name.
Eliza, I believe, will grow up to be headstrong, kind, stubborn, able, compassionate, patient, determined, and have an unwavering sense of family. Some of these traits she will get from Katie and me. If you ever wonder where she gets the rest of her character just look her in the eyes, and remember she is a Helen.
Music and singing were always a part of mom’s life. And they continue to be a way we track the progression of the disease. It’s been a while since I posted some singing clips. Here are two short ones…plus a bonus reprise from the toilet! (Oh yeah, we sing there too!)
This little light of mine…
You are my sunshine…
A reprise from the toilet…
An Amazing Village Designed Just For People With Dementia
Centuries after Shakespeare wrote about King Lear’s symptoms, there’s still no perfect way to care for sufferers of dementia and Alzheimer’s. In the Netherlands, however, a radical idea is being tested: Self-contained “villages” where people with dementia shop, cook, and live together—safely.
See pictures and the full article:
I’ve been traveling the last three weeks. Traveling has this effect on me where I remember things that don’t come up in my day-to-day life. I remember words in different languages, I remember people I’d forgotten, I remember smells and foods from another time and place. Part of my love of travel is how it’s a key for a locked memory box that opens when I leave home.
Sometimes I don’t get a memory, instead I get a flash of something. It’s like someone holds a picture up to my face but pulls it away two seconds later, so I don’t get a chance to really focus on it. I get colors, shapes, cryptic familiarities. It’s a tease.
I used to spend a long time trying to figure out the flashes. Trying to see the flashes more completely and more clearly. When my mom got sick, the memory flashes scared me. I thought they were a sign that something was wrong with my memory, because the flashes are confusing. I couldn’t remember if the flash was a something I experienced or a movie I once saw. I couldn’t remember who was with me or where I was. I was scared it meant the things I once knew vividly were eroding to just flashes.
But what I figured out is my memory has always worked that way. Sometimes well developed, well kept memories. Sometimes just flashes. So if that’s true, then I think there may be another explanation. That the flashes aren’t eroded memories, but something more like crumbs.
After a particularly delicious meal, you notice the crumbs on your plate. And they don’t look like the meal, but they remind you of something delicious, something you wish you could have again and again. Like memory flashes. They are the crumbs of something special, permanently saved as colors or shapes or smells or two seconds of a picture. The flashes aren’t meant to be remembered in their entirety. They are meant to be reminders of times lived so fully and with such enjoyment, that a crumb of wonderful gets left behind.